Orlando Magic built defensive foundation, but saw concerning slips

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Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets
The Orlando Magic have built a solid defensive foundation. But it could still use some improvements and adjusting. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have established themselves as a fundamentally sound and strong defensive team. But this season saw some concerning slips for their future.

The Orlando Magic have at least some idea of who they are and who they want to be.

The team drafted long, athletic wings and a shot-blocking center and hired coach Steve Clifford to rebuild the team’s defense. If there is one thing the Magic have done well in the last two years to make the Playoffs, it was to establish themselves as a tough defensive team.

If Clifford’s goal was to build a foundation for this team to grow from and something they can hang their hat on, he has at least gotten the team moving in that direction. The Magic still aim to be a top-10 defensive team and to be in the top half of the league offensively.

But this 2020 season saw significant steps back in these areas. The Magic are trying to forge an identity and have done well enough to raise their floor. But the team wants to advance.

While the Magic’s experience likely helped them weather the storm of injuries they faced this season, a worse bottom half of the Eastern Conference likely helped too.

There is rightly a lot of focus on the Magic’s offense heading into this offseason. It is undoubtedly the Magic’s biggest weak point. But the defense had its weak points too.

Especially without Jonathan Isaac for the 2021 season, the Magic’s potential success and a chance at a third-straight playoff appearance will likely fall on how good the defense can play.

Reviewing the Magic’s defense sees that their fundamentals look OK. The Magic want their defense built on limiting transition opportunities, rebounding well and forcing mid-range jumpers. They have done well at doing these things.

But that has not created a defense that really overpowers opponents. It is simple and executable. The Magic’s next task will be finding ways to add wrinkles to these basic principles to increase the pressure and impose their will defensively.

Maybe this is not the roster to do it as even those basic principles saw significant slips this year as the Magic begin to evaluate their defense.